were the only shelter available to hundreds of thousands of people who had lost

Were the only shelter available to hundreds of

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were the only shelter available to hundreds of thousands of people who had lost their homes. Many Americans called these shantytowns “Hoover- villes,” since they blamed President Hoover for the Depression. Every day, the poor dug through garbage cans or begged. Soup kitchens offering free or low-cost food and bread lines , or lines of people waiting to receive food provided by charitable organizations or public agencies, became a common sight. Herman Shumlin, a Broadway theatrical pro- ducer, described the men he saw around him in New York City. “Two or three blocks along Times Square, you’d see these men, silent, shuffling along in a line. Getting this handout of coffee and doughnuts, dealt out from great trucks. . . . I’d see that flat, opaque, expressionless look which spelled, for me, human disaster. Men . . . who had responsible positions. Who had lost their jobs, lost their homes, lost their families . . . They were destroyed men.” —Herman Shumlin, quoted in Hard Times Conditions for African Americans and Latinos were especially difficult. Their unemployment rates were higher, and they were the lowest paid. They also dealt with increasing racial violence from unemployed whites. Twenty-four African Americans were lynched in 1933. Unemployed people built shacks in a shantytown in New York City in 1932. Module 9 422
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Latinos—mainly Mexicans and Mexican Ameri- cans living in the Southwest—were also targets. Whites demanded that Latinos be deported, or expelled from the country, even though many had been born in America. By the late 1930s hundreds of thousands of people of Mexican descent relocated to Mexico. Some of them left voluntarily; others the federal government deported. THE DEPRESSION IN RURAL AREAS Life in rural areas was hard, but it did have one advantage over city life: most farmers could grow food for their families. With falling prices and rising debt, though, thousands of farmers lost their land. Between 1929 and 1932, about 400,000 farms were lost through foreclosure—the process by which a mortgage holder takes back property if an occupant has not made payments. Many farmers turned to tenant farming and barely scraped out a living. THE DUST BOWL Drought that began in the early 1930s wreaked havoc on the Great Plains. It was a disaster that developed gradually. Several years of good rain and mild winters had lulled farmers into thinking the land was suitable for intensive agriculture. They were soon proved wrong. During the 1920s farmers from Texas to North Dakota had used newly afford- able tractors to break up the grasslands and plant millions of acres of new farmland. Deep plowing had removed the thick protective layer of prairie grasses. Farmers had then exhausted the land through overproduction of crops, and the grasslands became unsuitable for farming. When the rains stopped and winds began to blow in the early 1930s, little grass and few trees were left to hold down the soil. Wind scattered the topsoil, expos- ing sand and grit underneath. The dust traveled hundreds of miles. One
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